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Reflections on Amplify’s Core Knowledge Profit Potential

September 5, 2013

In this post, I would like to offer my response to this information included as part of Diane Ravitch’s post on my exchange with Core Knowledge (CK) founder E.D. Hirsch. Regarding my strong statements on Amplify’s profit motive, Hirsch writes the following:

The only way Amplify can make money from CK Pre-K-through 3 is if a school or district doesn’t want to bother with printing, and therefore orders from them. But this also means that Amplify would need to offer the materials at an attractive price.

And there’s another twist you could not have known about.  We were pretty good bargainers on behalf of the public in this deal. Amplify helped pay for the development of grade 3. But we insisted grade 3 also got put up for free. 

You need to consult with Amplify where they expect to make money from all this.  They are underwriting the development costs of grades 4 and 5, and our contract with them is a regular 20 year publisher’s contract with royalties to CKF. They probably hope that having the whole pre-K 5 package, with pre-k 3 available for free will make 4 and 5 attractive.   You’ll have to ask them. Our view is: we want the get these coherent, knowledge-based materials available to as many schools as possible.  And for as many grades as possible for free.   

Don Hirsch

I would first like to note that Amplify is already making money off of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) through its $12.5 million grant from the Smarter Balanced Testing Consortium. Amplify is to develop formative assessments and professional learning resources aligned with CCSS:

OLYMPIA, Wash. – March 13, 2013 – The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) announced the award of a contract to develop a Digital Library of formative assessment practices and professional learning resources for educators. Amplify Insight, formerly known as Wireless Generation, will work with Consortium member states and teachers to create professional development materials and instructional resources aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced assessment system.  [Emphasis added.]

 Formative assessment is a critical component of the Smarter Balanced assessment system, which also includes a year-end summative assessment and interim assessments that can be used to monitor student progress throughout the year. Through an online Digital Library, teachers will have access to classroom-based, formative assessment strategies and practices that enhance day-to-day instruction. Also included will be resources to interpret and make use of the data and reports from the Smarter Balanced summative and interim assessments. [Emphasis added.]

 I have bolded the sections above to show “where Amplify expects to make money”– in it’s connection to the summative assessments. In short, Amplify is now close to the high-stakes tests– the outcomes of which are resulting in school closures and teacher and administrative firings and other punitive actions. One month after receiving a multi-million-dollar grant– part of an even larger grant from USDOE $175 million for constructing CCSS tests— Amplify contracted with CK for their CCSS-aligned curricular materials.

Who will frightened teachers and districts turn to for “help” with meeting the curricular demands of CCSS high-stakes tests? Why, the company that is best friends with the test makers themselves– Amplify.

This makes Amplify’s underwriting of CK ELA 4 and 5 well worth their time.

I realize now that it doesn’t matter much to Amplify’s profit potential whether CK materials are free to download for a few grade levels. Sure, they might not have wanted to allow grade 3 materials to be downloaded for free, but, okay. Through its partnership with Smarter Balanced, Amplify is close to the test. Desperate districts and schools will cut funding to non-tested programs in order to purchase those CK Amplify teaching kits if they believe that their survival depends upon it.

There it is: The potential for desperation profit.

There is another possible major benefit for Amplify: Tests must be built upon curriculum, which means that CK curriculum and materials could be used for that $12.5 million formative assessment project awarded by Smarter Balanced. Amplify could even contract with Smarter Balanced to “help” with actual summative assessment construction. As it is, Amplify is contracted to “help” with the reporting of the summative assessment.

Let’s just call it the potential to “maximize profits.”

I realize Hirsch’s goal is to make a quality curriculum readily available, but let’s face it: Amplify is no benevolence association. It is a business.

Just a reminder of Murdoch’s comment upon his purchasing Wireless Generation in 2010. Pay attention to how he begins his comment:

When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching,” said News Corporation Chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch in a statement.

When it comes to K-12 education, Rupert Murdoch “sees a $500 billion sector” first.

The “great teaching” part is not what is foremost in his mind.

  1. George Buzzetti permalink

    Actually it is over $700 billion in general fund revenues and more with the school construction bonds which total $27 billion at LAUSD alone, the largest construction project on the planet and all of it at 2-3 time the average rate in L.A. County. This is why the hedge funds and others now love education. Education K-12 at $700 billion is larger than the DOD budget. Should make sense now and you do not have all those committees looking at you. You work behind the lines and make more than in defense and no one knows what you are doing. Everyone is smelling “Free Green.”

  2. Linda permalink

    Interesting…earlier today not only could you download but you could buy a hard copy directly through CK, now it says buy through Amplify:

    Ready to Purchase Core Knowledge Language Arts?

    The Core Knowledge Foundation has partnered with Amplify Education, Inc. for nationwide distribution of CKLA because Amplify is a leader in teacher-friendly, rigorous, digital educational resources that has the capacity to support tens of thousands of schools and, over time, to create a technologically rich version of CKLA. We’re grateful to Amplify for allowing the Foundation to remain focused on developing more knowledge-building instructional materials and on expanding our network of Core Knowledge schools.

    Actually you can find many copies used on Amazon for less than $10.00.

  3. patriciahale permalink

    Why would anyone do business with a Rupert Murdoch business? Crooks, liars and spies. The fact that they have infiltrated public schools is a long overdue, cause for concern.

  4. ira shor permalink

    Yes, the opportunities for profit are deep for Amplify. Thanks for making clear that big money is certainly at stake here even if Prof. Hirsch himself is not taking out profits.

  5. August permalink

    Thanks, Mercedes, keep up the good work. One thing I’ve noticed about the people at Core Knowledge is they’re getting nervous about the PARCC and Smarter Balanced tests. Why? Because if Core Knowledge schools don’t blow the top off the tests, it will be much harder for them to claim Hirsch’s ideas are the royal road to literacy.

    • Excellent point, August. Looks like CK will be closely aligned to Smarter Balanced assessment, so if CK schools fare poorly– guess public school wasn’t the “problem,” after all.

  6. George Buzzetti permalink

    It’s all about percentages. That is why Romer brought in Dick Sheehan. Sheehan for 7 years was chief counsel for Kaufman-Broad. Yes, the Broadfather’s guy. But for 20 years before that he was chief counsel for Cesar’s Palace International. That means he knows every trick in the book and every percentage you forgot about and what it means. With billions in school bonds and a $6.5 billion budget you need a guy like that for your friends. It’s all about percentages, as they add up. Ask your students to prove it. They can, I have tested it. Just give them the proper question and stats. They can tell you what they are and what they mean.

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